It’s all over but the redeployment.

Petraeus won’t talk about his September testimony, and he won’t talk about the details of the inevitable U.S. withdrawal. But it is clear that he and his aides are preparing for the endgame. In Baqubah, General Odierno had told the Iraqis, “It’s up to you to make sure [al-Qaeda] doesn’t come back.” One could only wonder about the fate of Sunni insurgents who had turned against the jihadis. Soon they would be facing a new foe, an Iraqi army and local police that have been notoriously awful in Diyala province — riddled with Shi’ite death squads, incompetence and corruption. Petraeus’ “all in” bet relies on the police recruits squatting sullenly in Yusufia, indulging his cheerleading — “Are you ready to fight for your country?” Certainly, they were ready to fight for their families, their tribes, their mosques … but for a Shi’ite Iraq? Probably not.

“The vision thing is really important,” Petraeus told his commanders in Yusufia. “You have to visualize what security here should look like when you’re gone.” Petraeus was among the first to have the vision thing in Iraq, in Mosul in 2003, but the experiment was abandoned — there was a lack of sufficient troops — after he left. McCain and others believe, with some justification, that if the Petraeus counterinsurgency tactics had been adopted three years ago, the U.S.-led coalition might have had a shot. But now it seems likely that Petraeus will suffer the same fate in Baghdad as he did in Mosul. The various clocks are very much on his mind, but so are the daily sacrifices, the brilliant improvisations and occasional neighborhood victories of the troops he leads. “He doesn’t want to be the fall guy,” an aide said. And he doesn’t deserve to be. It is hard to imagine, though, how this can turn out any other way.

In Iraq, Operation Last Chance, by Joe Klein